In a world without villains, an old year would go out like a lamb, punctuated only by accident and disappointment. As if a solemn warning of a very specific kind, the last day of 2017 ended with violence, grief and alarm in a Denver suburb, where a gunman with motives yet unknown ambushed four police officers, killing one of them.
Ambush is particular malevolence, the pairing of careful and malicious planning and an innocent and unwary victim. In a creepy run-up to Denver, similar evil inspired the wicked to lure SWAT teams to a house in Wichita, where an innocent man was slain. The victim in Wichita was not a police officer, but an innocent man who opened his door to one, and a prank went awry.
But law enforcement was clearly the target and whether it was a prank gone wrong or something more cold-blooded, the target was a policeman. Just when the ambush of police officers became “a thing,” in the parlance of the young, is hard to pin down. Some look to the rise of the naked thuggery of the anti-fa movement, or the Black Lives Matter movement that has attracted malcontents to its ranks.
“Despite the fact that leaders and activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement were quick to condemn the ambush-style attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge [in 2016],” Jared Keller of Pacific Standard magazine writes, “the relationship between civil rights activism and police ambushes has only gained traction since it metastasized nearly two years ago. The deaths of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu helped give birth to the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ pro-police movement, which was aided and abetted by the law-and-order rhetoric that marked the 2016 presidential campaign trail.”
Race seems to be playing no part in the Denver killings. There’s much the police don’t know, but they have learned some things. Four Douglas County sheriff’s deputies, responding to a noise complaint, were ambushed by a gunman who fired more than 100 shots at them.
All four were hit, and Deputy Zackari Parrish, 29, was killed.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reports 44 officers killed by firearms in 2016, compared to 65 in 2015. According to the Memorial Fund, 21 officers were killed by ambush in 2016, the deadliest year for ambush of law enforcement in 26 years. One study suggests a growth in the trend, with death by ambush accounting for 12 percent of deaths of officers from 1990 to 2000, and an increase to 21 percent from 2001 to 2012. FBI crime statistics suggest that 240 police officers were ambushed in 2015.
Despite a decline in violent crime, but with more sophisticated weapons in the hands of hoodlums, malcontents and petty criminals, it’s ever more dangerous to be a police officer in America. There’s no denying that something is not working between law enforcement agencies and the communities they police. It’s all the more important not to forget the families of slain officers, including the widow and two young children of Zackari Parrish in Denver. Ambush is the currency of cowards.